MSC.Nastran for Windows at a Crossroads

1 Mar, 2006 By: Kenneth Wong

MSC tight-lipped following UGS decision to terminate OEM agreement

If you use MSC.Nastran for Windows for finite-element analysis, a product that includes both the Femap FEA modeler from UGS and MSC.Nastran, you might be looking at an unplanned software upgrade. Last week, UGS terminated its OEM agreement with MSC.Software, effectively barring MSC from bundling UGS's Femap, which handles pre- and postprocessing tasks such as CAD model import and meshing, with the Windows version of MSC.Nastran, the solver component. If you're an MSC.Nastran for Windows user, the question is, How critical is UGS Femap to your operations?

UGS is courting MSC.Nastran for Windows customers by offering a free upgrade to Femap with NX Nastran, which it touts as a virtually identical analysis solution to MSC.Nastran for Windows but with more advanced options and a more scalable configuration.

Andrew Meyer, MSC's vice-president of corporate marketing, counters, "The underlying engine in the current release of MSC.Nastran for Windows is MSC.Nastran 2005. It's the most advanced product in the market. So we feel confident that there's no other solver solution that can match its capability and performance."

If your sense of loyalty urges you to stick with MSC, you can expect a letter from the company detailing your alternatives. If you haven't received such communication, Meyer suggests you contact your local MSC reseller. For reasons of customer and vendor confidentiality, MSC did not disclose the content of that letter to Cadalyst.

Alastair Robertson, UGS product marketing manager for Femap, estimates that more than 3,000 MSC.Nastran for Windows users worldwide hold a maintenance contract to receive the Femap upgrade. Those are the customers who now qualify for a free Femap with NX Nastran upgrade from UGS. MSC's Meyers doesn't dispute or confirm the UGS estimate, but did say, "MSC.Nastran for Windows users represent a very small number of the MSC users."

Meyer adds that MSC received no prior notification of UGS's termination of the agreement or UGS's public announcement relating to the termination of the OEM agreement. Robertson indicates that MSC was provided notice of the termination in accordance with the terms of the contract.

UGS's announcement cites MSC's "consistent failure to deliver upgrades to customers on a timely basis" as the reason for terminating the agreement. Robertson clarifies: "MSC had a requirement to take what we gave them [namely, periodic updates to Femap] and turn that around within a period of time. They failed to do that a number of times, so we felt it's in our customers' interest to supply Femap to them in another way." He pointed out that UGS released Femap 9.1 in October 2005, but MSC has not yet released version 9.1 or announced plans for doing so. "UGS is planning another release for this spring," he says, "so it's becoming a case where MSC customers may be not just one version behind, but two versions behind." Meyer says he has no comment on the subject.

Ken Amann, director of research at CIMdata, remarks, "If MSC was not providing timely updates per their agreement with UGS, then it would be an issue for UGS, who can argue that they're trying to get the latest updates to Femap users. On the other hand, the affected users are MSC customers and they will need to decide if they want to remain with MSC and how they're going to replace that capability if MSC can't provide Femap." The Femap users affected by the announcement most likely acquired MSC.Nastran for Windows through MSC resellers, making them MSC customers.

Citing confidentiality, both UGS and MSC declined to comment on other relationships that still exist between them. However, it's reasonable to conclude that the two will still work together to ensure that certain MSC products, such as MSC.Patran and MSC.Adams, remain interoperable with UGS's Parasolid modeling kernel, a widely used component in CAE (computer-aided engineering) operations. Neither UGS nor MSC indicates that such arrangements will be affected by the termination of the Femap OEM agreement.

CIMdata's Amann observes, "MSC is in an interesting situation. They had made a significant commitment to supporting the [Dassault Systèmes] CAA V5 platform, and Dassault later bought [finite-element analysis solution provider] ABAQUS. Now UGS has pulled Femap from them. As their relationships to Dassault and UGS have changed, MSC is in the position of determining what products to use in place of Femap, what partners they will work with in the future, and how they're going to compete, or continue to work with previous partners."

About the Author: Kenneth Wong

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